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How to make willpower your superpower

What is the point of making New Year’s resolutions if they only last five minutes? Read on for six secrets to better willpower.

Whether you want to quit smoking or start a new hobby, kick off an exercise program or kick the habit of an afternoon chocolate, the secret is a strong will. Our willpower helps us start up new positive habits and gets us to stick with them even when the going gets tough.

Willpower is a bit like a muscle; we can strengthen it with a few simple exercises. So, here are some easy things we can do to make sure our January resolutions last all the way through to December and beyond.

1. Cut yourself some slack

This may sound like a funny start, but just like running too often or lifting too much weight, if you are in a constant fight to curb your will you will get tired and it will actually have the opposite effect. The trick is to exercise self-control over the important issues for you but then to give yourself a break – or you will deplete your reserves of willpower quickly and fall back into the bad old ways.

2. Build good habits

Willpower is, in part, down to repetition. When we are stressed, we often resort to our bad habits. However, if you have developed good habits over time then you will likely revert to these. If you are trying to lose weight, make it a habit to make salad for lunch; then, if you find yourself out and not sure what to order, you are more likely to default to a healthy choice. Training your brain is often a case of repeating the way you want things to be. Keep the changes small and consistent and your brain will not even know what happened!

3. Good food, good thoughts

Speaking of salads, a healthy body is likely to have stronger will. Why? Because when you engage your willpower it is basically an epic battle of good vs evil, and studies have shown that a poor diet leads to more emotional choices. When we make emotional choices, these favour the bad side of willpower. You may want that extra biscuit, but is it the right choice?

4. Set achievable goals

We all hate to feel like we are weak willed, but if we continue to fail at our goals, that is what happens. The more we fail, the more tempting it is to give up all together, so it is important to have goals that we can reach. Proving to yourself that you do have the will to reach your goals can then become self-fulfilling. You can also break down your goals into smaller goals so you can get more positive reinforcement, more often.

5. Avoid stress

Decisions made under stress are rarely the right decisions. After all, they call poor food choices “stress eating” for a reason. A calm brain is more likely to make the right choice, so keep an eye on your stress levels and try not to push your willpower during periods of intense stress.

6. Give yourself a prize

Our brain loves a good reward, so develop your own system to help you with your willpower. If you are trying to get some work done, give yourself a break after a set period of work. If you are trying to eat better, give yourself a sneaky treat after a few days of good eating. Send the message to your brain that good choices result in worthy rewards.

Getting our willpower fit is a challenge, but positive choices can lead to a healthier retirement and a more active lifestyle. There is no point pushing your will to breaking point, but with the above suggestions you can build a stronger, more positive you.